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Decision Virginia Archive 8/08- 7/12

Posts Tagged ‘Ward Armstrong

Stewart gets jump on unsettled 2013 field

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

Despite being in the midst of a contentious and serious battle for the 2012 federal elections. Virginia politicos are preparing for what could be an incredibly competitive 2013. Several candidates on both sides are either publicly or quietly mulling a run for statewide office. At this point the most of the conversations are speculative and the large field that currently exists will certainly be widdled down by the time voters are actually forced to make decisions. However with the active and ambitious crop being discussed heated primaries and/or state party conventions are almost certain.

Republicans are already dealing with a holy war at the top of their ticket between Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Lt. Governor Bill Bolling. The Bolling- Cuccinelli feud may be only part of what the GOP will be dealing with. A number of candidates are considering runs for Lt. Governor and Attorney General that if they hold it could mean competitive nominating contests on all levels.

A particularly interesting battle is setting up in the republican Lt. Governor’s race. Wednesday, the ambitious Chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Corey Stewart formally entered the race. Stewart is well-known in political circles, in part because of the numerous times he has tossed his name into prospective statewide races only to back away. Most recently Stewart seriously considering running for the open U.S. Senate seat. He even went as far to say some pretty critical things about former Senator George Allen, who he later endorsed.

On First at 4, Stewart told me that the timing was right for him to run statewide this time.

“We’ve been able to reduce taxes, we’ve cut spending by more than $143 million dollars (in Prince William County) instituted some good budgetary reforms while still putting a lot more money into transportation, and I’d like to do the same thing for the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he said.

Stewart won’t be alone in the race for the state’s second spot. Pete Snyder, the wealthy technology entrepreneur and ally of Governor Bob McDonnell is also mulling a run. Snyder is getting quite a bit of face time in his role as the Virginia GOP’s chief fundraiser. He appeared on First at 4 a couple of weeks ago.

The republicans also have several candidates considering a run for Attorney General, the most prominent, Harrisonburg Senator Mark Obenshain and Charlottesville Delegate Rob Bell.

But too many candidates for not enough positions is not a problem exclusive to republicans. multiple candidates are lining up on the democratic side. State Senator Chap Petersen has already set up a PAC and has said he plans a gubernatorial run. Former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe is widely expected to make another run. This is of course if the long running rumor that Senator Mark Warner would like to come back to Richmond, turns out to be just a rumor.

The lower parts of the ticket aren’t quite lined up as orderly as their counterparts on the republican side, but prominent democrats are being floated in those positions as well. Among them, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring and former Delegate Ward Armstrong. Update: Friends of Loudon Democratic Senator Mark Herring emailed to remind me that he has officially begun exploring a run for Attorney General.

There are other names being whispered as well. Former candidate for Lt. Governor Michael Signer and his close friend former Rep. Tom Perriello both have been suggested as statewide candidates. Henrico Sen. Don McEachin ran for Attorney General before and could be thrown into the mix and a new rising start, Alexandria Del. Charniele Herring hasn’t formally talked about running statewide, but was a key voice in the battle over abortion in this year’s General Assembly session and might be a name brought up in the future.

So much of this talk is just that talk. Names thrown into the air to see what the reception is to gauge the possibility of investing, time, energy and quite a bit of money into running statewide. That is what make’s the Stewart announcement so significant. He is all in. More than a year before anyone will be forced to make a decision about who they would like as their nominee.

Will getting out first pay off? Stewart is betting it will. It is a question we won’t know the answer to, until we get through the first brutal election still in front of us.

Our full interview with Chairman Stewart can be found below:

Stewart’s full announcement can be found after the jump:

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Democrats and Republicans claim key victories in 2011 elections

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

Off-year elections are not supposed to be this exciting.  The polls have been closed in Virginia for almost 12 hours and we still aren’t 100% sure which party is in control of the Virginia Senate.  Election night was a tense and dramatic affair with both parties claiming victory.

Democratic Victories:

Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney- The win by upstart Shannon Taylor was improbable. She was immensely outspent, got as late a start as any candidate on the ballot could have and was running against a historically dominant Republican machine.  It is a victory that will resonate beyond Central Virginia to the rest of the state and should even get a small amount of national attention because it was a blow to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor‘s power base in his home district.  Republicans will argue that Taylor benefited greatly by Matt Geary‘s refusal to exit the race and the results are an anomaly that won’t tell us anything about 2012.  That is true, but Taylor’s victory cannot be understated given that she toppled Del. Bill Janis, a man who gave up a very powerful position in the House of Delegates to run for CA.

Held off Senate losses- Conventional wisdom was that democrats were headed to a very difficult night. Worst case scenarios had them losing 10 seats or more in the House of Delegates and 4 seats and control of the Virginia Senate. It looks like the outcome will not be that bad, and at the very least the republican agenda will be forced to get democratic support to pass through the committee process.

Republican Victories:

They hold more seats in the General Assembly- Regardless of how you read the numbers there is one inescapable fact from the 2011 results. The GOP now holds more seats in the House and the Senate than they did before election day.  While Governor Bob McDonnell has not been handed a clear majority in the Senate to push through his agenda, he has at least one additional vote that he didn’t before. That will make it much easier for him to pass legislation that will resonate beyond his time in office.

Powerful, vocal democratic leaders lose-  If the results all hold democrats could lose two of their most influential voices in the General Assembly.  Most notably, Del. Ward Armstrong the one time leader of the democratic caucus in the House of Delegates and a would be statewide candidate. Armstrong was re-redistricted into a match-up with incumbent Charles Poindexter in a GOP heavy district. He ran a campaign as far away from the democratic base as he could, but it was not enough. Unless he still has visions of a statewide run, his political career could be over.  In the race that is still in doubt, Sen. Edd Houck a longtime democratic stalwart and foil to republican governors could be gone. Houck is the third most powerful member of the democratic senate and a strong voice on the joint money committees.  He understands the nitty-gritty of the state budget and his experience would be a huge loss for democrats when it comes to budget time.

I joined the NBC12 morning team for a look at the results. You can see our discussion below:

McClellan not afraid to stand by President Obama

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In the wake of story after story of democrats fleeing President Barack Obama, I was able to find a state legislator unafraid to wave a flag of support for her Commander in Chief.

Granted, Del. Jennifer McClellan is running unopposed and is in a very solid democratic district but she was at one time a very vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton.  Today she made it clear that she has no problem getting behind the man in the White House.

You will notice, McClellan wasn’t willing to wade in too deep into the controversy surrounding House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong.  She said that his decision to part with President Obama will not “impact the way they govern” in January.

Could Armstrong’s ad jeopardize his leadership position?

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

Virgina House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong is already feeling the reverberations from a controversial campaign ad that puts distance between he and President Barack Obama. In the ad, Armstrong touts his “pro-life, pro-gun” record and calls any comparisons to him and Mr. Obama a “stretch.”

Armstrong has not returned our inquiries about whether or not he supports the president’ re-election, but it is clear that his efforts to retain his seat could make life a lot different for him come January.

Armstrong, already one of the most conservative democrats in the House, will face a fickle House minority that may look to replace him with a member that more accurately represents the voice of the left in Virginia.

“This makes it harder to justify Ward as the primary voice for our party in the House,” said Del. Dave Englin a liberal member from Northern Virginia and a rising democratic star. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. ”

Englin has been rumored to be considering a run for house leadership, a position that could propel him to future run statewide, and make him a powerful liberal voice. A voice that could get a great deal of attention, especially if Virginia gives control of the Senate to republicans.

“A number of people have asked me to run for higher leadership in our Caucus,” Englin told me. “We have several talented Members who could provide that, and we’ll work out the details within our Caucus family after November 8.”

Englin is not alone in his criticism of Armstrong. Lowell Feld of the influential Blue Virginia blog wrote Friday that Armstrong should not expect any help from the blog in the future.

“Whether Ward Armstrong wins his race for delegate or not,” wrote Feld. “He can forget about any support whatsoever on this blog for statewide office in 2013, or for any other office for that matter.”

But Armstong, who hasn’t responded for comment on this story, still has his supporters including in Northern Virginia. Del. Bob Brink told me that he wasn’t ready to talk about organizational matters for the upcoming session, but had high praise for his democratic leader.

“Ward has been a skillful and articulate floor leader for House Democrats,” said Brink. “The issues on which we agree far outnumber those on which we disagree.”

Armstrong won’t be able to escape the specter of Obama anytime soon. The president’s bus tour scheduled for next week is expected to roll through the Southside. Virginia republicans are already asking if one of the leading democrats in Virginia will be there to greet him.

Written by Ryan Nobles

October 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Armstrong distances himself from Obama

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He is one of the most powerful democrats in Virginia. The leader of  minority in the House of Delegates and an often mentioned candidate for statewide office.  But Del. Ward Armstrong, redistricted out of a safe district and forced to take on a republican incumbent,  is the fight of his life. A fight where he appears ready to do whatever it takes to stay in office.

Armstrong has always been a blue-dog democrat. It is, to certain degree, a requirement in his Southwest Virginia District.  But he has taken his moderate approach to a new level in a just released television ad where he describes himself as “pro-life and “pro-gun” and calls comparisons to him and President Barack Obama a “stretch”.

Armstrong is not the first democrat facing a tough re-election bid at the state level, to build some breathing room between their campaign and the president.  Senator Phil Puckett, facing a serious challenge in Virginia coal country said that Obama was not “his choice for the nomination” and said he would not support his re-election bid.  Puckett’s refusal to support Obama was national news even though despite being a member of the democratic Senate majority, he is not considered a major power player.  (Puckett finished 4th in a democratic primary for Lt. Governor in 2005).

Armstrong is a vocal and prominent player in Virginia politics and as the ad leaked out the reaction was strong.  Ben Tribbett, a prominent liberal blogger,  was one of the first to post the ad.  He called out Northern Virginia democrats in the House that elected Armstrong as their leader.

Republicans pounced on the news as well, sending out a release welcoming Armstrong into what they are dubbing the “Puckett Caucus, – a small but growing group of Democrats who realize that Barack Obama is toxic to their re-election chances.”   The party also called out other endangered Senate Democrats to ask them where they stand on the president’s re-election bid.

Armstrong’s campaign has not returned a request asking  specifically if the democrat supports President Obama’s re-election bid.

The ad can be seen below:

Written by Ryan Nobles

October 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Supreme Court sides with Westboro, vindicating Cuccinelli

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There are few people in America that don’t sympathize with the family of Matthew Snyder. Snyder died fighting for his country in Iraq and when his memory was honored with a funeral, his family was forced to endure protests from the controversial Westboro Baptist Church.

Westboro and their lightning rod leader, Fred Phelps protest just about everything. Churches, high schools, museums anything that they can pin back to a homosexual agenda in the United States. They are widely considered to be extremist and outside of mainstream American thought.

And while most Americans were annoyed with, but tolerated their frequent protests it seemed to cross an imaginary line of discretion when they started protesting at military funerals. Matthew Snyder’s father Albert was so upset by the indignity that he took the Phelps family to court. His argument was that Westboro’s right to freedom of speech went too far, causing him emotional distress.

The Snyders won the first round of the court battle. They were awarded a $5 million verdict. But that decision was quickly turned back by a federal appeals court in Richmond.  Not only did the Snyders lose the appeal, but they were also ordered to pay the court costs of the Phelps family.

That is where the Supreme Court got involved. They agreed to hear the case last spring. The announcement by the highest court in the land brought with it a flood of support for the Snyders. That support led to briefs from influential leaders like Senators and Members of Congress.

Joining in support of the Snyder case was every single Attorney General in America except for Maine and Virginia. At the time Ken Cuccinelli said he deplored the behavior of Westboro Baptist Church, but the First Amendment protects all forms of speech.

His decision to not join the Snyder’s effort was vilified across the country and used as a baton for political attacks by Virginia Democrats. Del. Ward Armstrong appeared on NBC12 First at 4 to attack Cuccinelli. He said the Attorney General’s decision to sit the Snyder v. Phelps case out, was an example of  his extremist positions on a number of topics.

Fast forward to today. The Supreme Court of the United States had the final say. They did not side with the Snyder family, the entire U.S. Senate and 48 Attorneys General. No, in a convincing 8-1 decision they agreed with Ken Cuccinelli.

In his statement on behalf of the winning decision Chief Justice John Roberts wrote  ‘Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here—inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.”

Cuccinelli said that his willingness to stand apart from the pack is an example of the type of Attorney General that he is, focused on the rule of law, not an agenda.

“My office is committed to the rule of law and to the principles of the First Amendment,” Cuccinelli said in a written statement.  “We agree wholeheartedly with the chief justice, and that is why we declined to join the amicus brief in this case, even when doing so was decidedly unpopular.”

But will this act of courage help Cuccinelli with his biggest detractors? Many feel that he is driven by an ideological agenda that has more to do with his personal convictions than upholding the law.  It will be interesting to see how he uses this development to make the case that he is a responsible Attorney General, not someone hellbent on carrying out a political agenda.  The result could play a big role in his political future.

Extended clips from our interview with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli can be found below:

Written by Ryan Nobles

March 2, 2011 at 7:52 pm

BREAKING: Webb will not seek re-election

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In a surprise statement released just a few minutes ago, Senator Jim Webb announced that he will not seek re-election to his post. The full statement is below:

Statement of Senator Jim Webb

Washington, DC–Today Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) issued the following statement:

Five years ago this week, on February 8, 2006, I announced my intention to run for the United States Senate.  We had neither campaign funds nor a staff.  We were challenged in a primary, and trailed the incumbent in the general election by more than 30 points in the polls.

Over the next nine months we focused relentlessly on the need to reorient our national security policy, to restore economic fairness and social justice, and to bring greater accountability in our government.  I will always be grateful for the spirit and energy that was brought into this campaign by thousands of loyal and committed volunteers.  Their enthusiasm and sheer numbers were truly the difference in that election.

It has been a great and continuing privilege to serve in the United States Senate.  I am very proud of my talented and dedicated staff, which has worked tirelessly to resolve the issues on which I based my candidacy, and to protect the interests of all Virginians in this national forum.  Among other contributions we have given our Post- 9/11 veterans the best GI Bill since World War Two; we have taken the lead in reforming our criminal justice system; we have led the way toward stronger relations in East and Southeast Asia; and we have been a strong voice in calling on China to act more responsibly in the world community. We will continue to work on these and other issues throughout the rest of my term.

However, after much thought and consideration I have decided to return to the private sector, where I have spent most of my professional life, and will not seek re-election in 2012.

Notwithstanding this decision, I have every intention of remaining involved in the issues that affect the well-being and the future of our country.

UPDATE:

The list is now being populated with potential replacements for Webb as the Democratic nominee.

Gov. Tim Kaine- The obvious front-runner.  The current DNC Chairman is close friend of President Obama. Kaine has said in the past that he wouldn’t be interested (he told me during his last month in office that governor would be his last elected office), but a lot can change now that the seat is open.

Rep. Tom Perriello- A close friend of the White House, with liberal credentials but has run well in conservative regions. Perriello has proven himself as relentless on the campaign trail. The question is, will he be interested. conveniently he is traveling out of the country right now.

Rep. Rick Boucher- Boucher was a surprise loss for Democrats in Southwest Virginia. He left a lot of money in the bank, and didn’t seem ready to retire. Even though he is from coal country, his politics play well in Northern Virginia and he is very connected in D.C.

Rep. Glenn Nye- The one term conserva-dem from Virginia Beach was beat in November. However he is young and filled with ambition. Just like Perriello’s liberal side may play better statewide than in VA-5, Nye may think his moderate position makes him an attractive statewide candidate. Although, Nye has real issues with the Democratic party faithful.

Other names worth pointing out: Sen. Creigh Deeds, (who has run twice for statewide office) Del. Ward Armstrong(whose statewide ambitions are not a secret), Sen. Don McEachin (who has run statewide in the past), Mike Signer (former candidate for LG, close friend of Tom Perriello and ambitious)  and frankly.. just about every politician in Virginia who describes him/herself as a Democrat.

Who Won’t Run:

Terry McAuliffe- The former DNC Chairman and candidate for Governor has soundly rejected any thought about running for Senate. He told me a few weeks ago that he is “more the executive type”. I followed up with his staff today and they say his position has not changed despite the now open seat.

Gov. Doug Wilder- In a phone conversation this afternoon Wilder asked me “Do you know how old I am?” Wilder emphatically rejected any chance that he might run. He said that he is however concerned about who the Democrats might put up. “They need to develop a farm team,” he said. Wilder avoided making any kind of declarative statement on Tim Kaine’s worthiness as a candidate. He would only say that he is “certain they will all come out,” and that “One person I am not going to support is me.”